The summer garden

Well Xmas and New Year (seasons greetings to you all) have come and gone since my last blog (how time flies) and the garden is just starting to produce enough to eat. We’re harvesting zucchini, tomatoes (early ones only), purple king beans, radish, green bull chillies, beetroot, assorted greens and herbs of course! The eggplants are just starting to fruit – hopefully we’ll be inundated with tomatoes, zucchinis and eggplants in a few weeks time. I’m not having much luck with florence fennel, the seed just doesn’t seem to strike well, anyway I’ve just planted another lot (organic local seeds) so let’s hope they take off. The zucchinis are an organic italian variety, they’re so pretty and seem to grow long before filling out – a lovely striped fruit too. I’m hoping the golden beets grow as big as the ones I bought from Magic Meadow (organic farm produce) and can’t wait to be able to pick our own carrots too.

The plums pictured above come from a friend whose plum tree was getting attacked by birds – she  had to pick them before they had fully ripened – I’m in the process of making plum sauce and jam. I tried one of our apricots today, it was nearly ripe and probably fine for cooking, might have to pick some tomorrow. We’ve netted the apricot and mulberry trees (as well as some of the tomatoes) or we would have lost the lot to birds. I don’t mind sharing some produce but the birds indiscriminately peck at everything in sight and don’t eat the ones that drop on the ground! What a waste!

We usually buy about a dozen advanced tomato plants, the rest of the crop being the self sown varieties that pop up all over the garden. This year we only bought two tomato plants (the ones that are producing now) and the rest we’ve grown from seed collected from two sources – a huge Italian variety brought over from the “old country” years ago and an Italian small green striped heirloom tomato. It was fun growing our main tomato crop from seed and we ended up planting about 10 of each variety  plus kept a crop of self sown tomatoes too, so we probably have about 40 tomatoes growing! We weren’t going to plant so many this year!

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A few years back I rescued a small half dead San Pedro cactus from our daughter’s share house (it was strewn in the garden amongst a tangle of weeds) and it certainly rewarded us this year with about thirty blossoms all in different stages of development. On Xmas day 7 blooms opened at once – absolutely amazing!

The weather has been crazy lately – too much wind and scorching heat – I hate seeing the garden being blown about like that – but at least it’s raining tonight!

Until my next blog…cheers Lemmie

The autumn garden

Well I am finally back onto the computer and my blog, life seemed to get in the way for the last few weeks. So what’s happening in the garden? The only summer crop left are the chillies, everything else is over and out. There is however new life in the garden, the garlic and shallots are showing their new growth, the first crops of broad beans and peas are about 3cm tall and the next plantings are yet to show themselves (we are tending to plant small crops over several plantings so we don’t get too many at once). There are several varieties of spinach growing and a whole patch of self sown ones  too, the silver beet and kale are looking good, I’m looking forward to making spinach, potato and cheese pies especially. I love all greens and if we could only grow one crop it would be a green crop of some sort (my favourites are spinach and rocket). We usually always have staples of lettuce, rocket, herbs, beet root and carrots growing but we are having to buy carrots for now until the next crop is ready (we use a lot of carrots especially in the juicer). The miniature purple cabbages and brussels sprouts were infested with aphids so I sprayed them with an organic spray otherwise we would have lost them I think, I’ll have to check them again to see if they need another spray. I was hoping that some natural aphid predators would do their job but alas that didn’t happen. The broccoli plants in another area of the garden have no aphids on them at all, hooray!

I didn’t realise there were so many oranges on the Washington navel as they blended into the deep green foliage but now they are changing colour they stand out more. The younger blood orange hasn’t got any fruit at all which is disappointing but actually good for the tree to help it develop more before putting it’s energy into fruit. The flower seedlings I planted are growing well, the pansies are flowering but the cinerarias and hollyhocks still have some growing to do before they flower. I’ve been admiring the cosmos flowers in gardens on my walk to work, think I may have to get some of them soon. The pressure is off me to cook so much now as the produce has nearly come to a standstill but there are still things like rhubarb, citrus and beetroot to play with. I used to give the beetroot tops to the worm farm but have been saving them to use in pasta sauces and for a lovely filling for omelettes.

 

I hope to do a bit of weeding tomorrow and maybe feed the young seedlings with some seaweed emulsion to help them along. We are so lucky with the mild weather lately, we may as well enjoy it while it lasts.

The ever changing garden

Our garden is just about full so when I find a plant that I “have to have” finding a home for it can be challenging, luckily there are always plants that die, aren’t thriving or reach the end of their cycle, so we can usually find room for the new arrival. I can be ruthless when it comes to pruning or culling a plant, when space is limited you have to be.

I was disappointed when our curry leaf tree died last year and missed being able to pick the wonderfully fragrant leaves for cooking and so I bought a new curry leaf tree and had planted it and then a few days later I noticed some plants growing where the old curry leaf tree had been. To my amazement there were 7 new curry leaf trees growing all clumped together and looking strong and healthy. I thought they may be seedlings but when I dug them up they were growing from the old tree’s roots, amazing, I have popped them into some pots and hopefully we will have a few curry leaf trees to give away. The peas and spinach are up and I planted the first 3 rows of broad beans today. There are self sown coriander, rocket plants, lettuces and marigolds popping up all over the garden including the paths, I transplanted a few into the beds. We’ll have to plant the garlic and shallots before the shortest day and when the moon is right for planting root crops. I am still picking the last of the tomatoes, zucchinis, eggplants and chillies, but I think by this weekend they will all be gone. This last summer and autumn we’ve had the best vegetable garden produce so far on this property, so many thanks to mother nature for providing such a bounty.

Landscaping and building the new garden

Pasta man is a builder and jack of all trades and so is perfectly suited to all manner of projects around the home and garden (lucky me). His latest project is a garage / office and as part of this project a large amount of soil needed to be excavated and was used to form a new terraced garden. The new garden was in the most barren part of the property, it’s exciting to develop a new space out of nothing. We never seem to have enough vegetable garden space so while we consider the long term plans for the garden we’ll use it for growing crops that need lots of room (this summer we have grown potatoes, pumpkins and zucchini up there with a great deal of success for such a young garden). In the middle of the area we have planted a weeping mulberry, it’s a feature plant that also produces fruit, there’s an espalier of citrus on the western side and an olive, finger lime and apricot on the eastern side of the garden. The northern edge is made up of a hedge of shrubs including 2 pomegranates, so it is already quite a busy area. Pasta man has just completed the steps up to this new garden and as soon as the zucchinis are finished we are going to plant the winter crops of shallots, garlic, peas and broad beans up there. Until next time…..

 

The floral garden

A couple of years ago I noticed a spectacular climbing plant growing over the wall of the old Geelong gaol and grabbed a piece to identify it. I couldn’t find it in any of my books or on the internet but the local nurserywoman named it “Russian Lady’s Slipper”. She thought it looked easy enough to grow from a cutting (it looks like a succulent) so I did just that, one little cutting and now it has taken over a large part of the fence and will climb into all the neighbouring plants and across the ground if we let it. I wonder what I have introduced into  our garden it is so vigorous, I imagine that if left alone it would eventually cover up the whole block, house and all. It has a tendency to damage the fence too so I think eventually it will have to go or at least have a massive regular prune. When flowering it is absolutely amazing as you can see in the photos….

I’ve spent a couple of hours in the garden this morning and now it is raining, I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome! I just wish I had planted the broad beans, peas and spinach seeds, it would have been perfect timing. I did plant 3 punnets of flowers (mixed coloured hollyhocks, red pansies and white cinerarias) and a french tarragon plant to add to the herb collection. I found a lovely curry leaf tree at Van Loons yesterday and had to buy it, our last one died while we were on holidays last year and I’ve missed the convenience of being able to pick the delightfully fragrant leaves to use in cooking. We decided to plant it in the bank of shrubs that are growing to form a colourful screen or hedge dividing the lower garden and the newer top garden and helping to create a much needed wind break and gentler climate. Our back yard garden is slowly being transformed from a desolate, windswept, barren piece of dirt to a lush environment with the addition of split levels, lots of plants, time, water and muscle power. Our garden is a mixed up blend of herbs, vegetables, fruiting plants and our favourite ornamentals, we want to create different rooms or aspects in the garden and so it is evolving and changing as time goes on and as we do too. I do like my ornamentals but I’m more interested in edible plants lately, there are so many amazing edible plants available it seems silly not to grow as many of them as we can (space is the key).

Garden talk

There’s been plenty of action in the garden over the past couple of weeks, we pulled up the pumpkins and found 26, they were hidden all over the place. One pumpkin was wedged into a corner and is square, another was lodged high in a shrub and other particularly large ones were hanging from their stalks (they must be incredibly strong). The tomato and zucchini plants are looking ghastly but still producing quite heavily (I’ll have to buy tomatoes for salads soon). The red peppers are heavily laden and ripening quickly now; I was pleasantly surprised to find that they have a touch of heat/chilli and my favourite crop the eggplants are still producing. I forgot to mention that Pasta man dug up the potatoes, they are safely tucked away – a lovely healthy crop of delicious spuds (potato rosti may be on the menu).

We have two climbing roses – a delicate lemon one with a few thorns and a single petal red rose that is probably the most viscous rose I have ever seen! They are tucked away in a corner for safety and last year I didn’t get around to pruning them so they are in desperate need of a heavy prune. Anyway I’ve made a start on the yellow one and will have to wait for the green bin to empty to finally deal with the monster (I need to wear armour it’s so nasty).

When we first moved here we noticed a colony of harlequin bugs hanging out in the wood stack and didn’t really take much notice of them, but the next year their numbers had increased and they were everywhere! Our garden was a dismal place and as we started developing it we realised that the harlequin problem had to be resolved. After doing a bit of research we found that liquid soap (woolwash) with some pyrethrum did the trick (it works by blocking their ability to breath – sorry harlequins) and our campaign to get rid of harlequins began and so for the last couple of years we’ve been on the harlequin hunt and their numbers have decreased. This year we’ve trying not to use any sprays but there are some harlequins hanging about in one part of the garden, so I’ve spent a few hours picking them off the plants by hand and dropping them into a large container with soapy water in it. It’s a bit time consuming but those beautiful little lady bird beetles and praying mantises that are eating the white flies and aphids are safe to keep munching away and I feel better about it too.

Can’t wait to pull up the last of the summer crops and have a tidy garden again; we need to prepare ground to plant peas, broad beans, shallots, garlic and I’ve got 3 punnets of flowers to plant too (always nice to have flowers in the garden for contrast, beauty and companion planting), so you see there is plenty of gardening to be done, but isn’t  there always?